Trees Improve Our Health

It’s amazing what trees can do to improve our health.

That’s what a study involving 75 children in two Finnish cities found. The study was briefly reported in the Oct. 23, 2020 issue of The Guardian Weekly.

In the study, the play areas of children were changed from gravel yards to mini-forests. Within one month, children who spent time in those play areas showed improved immune systems. Researchers think that’s because the children developed more diverse microbes on their skin and in their guts, the Guardian reported.

Aki Sinkkonen at Natural Resources Institute Finland, who led the study, said those involved in it were surprised that the results were so strong. He hopes the study will show others how they can reduce what he called the global epidemic of immune-mediated diseases. The brief report didn’t say what kinds of trees or how many were planted, but it did suggest that trees in play areas helped to improve children’s immune systems.

It’s pretty amazing that adding trees to a play area can have such an affect. Though the trial included a fairly small number of children, it made the idea of planting trees around where children play an enticing one. Even a few different varieties of trees in the back yard might make a difference.

Beyond the concept of improving children’s immunity, planting more trees around where children play could have other benefits as well. Francisco and Katie in the children’s fiction picture book, If I Were a Tree, What Would I Be?, each knew that they could hear trees with their hearts. They didn’t realize that anyone else could do that. When Katie and Francisco discovered they both shared that ability, they forged a lovely friendship with a cottonwood tree. The tree helped them, and they helped the tree.

If you decide to add a few trees around your yard, it might be interesting to see how that affects you and your family. Will you feel healthier, as the Finnish study suggests? Will you feel a friendly connection with the trees? Will the back yard become a more pleasant place to spend time? The possibilities are intriguing.

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